Canterbury UMC
Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Holy Land Journey 2011

Susan Barnett; Cris and Judy Brown; Oliver and Elaine Clark; Donna Cleage, Donna Crouch; Bede Donnell; Skip and Lisa Donnell; Betty and Mary Nell Glasscock; Joyce Greathouse; Grady Gunn; Roger Kernodle; Hurley and Sarah Jane Knott; Harry and Kay Littleton; April and Mary Catherine McAnnally; Cindy Monk; Mike Morrison; Callie and Wilson Nash; Warren, Valerie, Graham and Dixon Nash; John and Carolyn Neiman; Suzanne Payne; Julia Pope; Liz Prosch; Madelon Rushing; Lester and Jane Seigel; Lynne Smith; Jeff and Linda Stone; Sharon Walter; Ernest Wood; and Ralph, Sally, and Catie Yeilding.
Day 1 - Departure from USA (from Philadelphia US Air #796)
SUNDAY MAY 29, 2011
Day 2 - Arrival in Ben Gurion International Airport, Israel.
Drive Through Plain of Sharon, past Antipatris/Aphek and Ebenezer.
MONDAY MAY 30, 2011
Day 3 - THEME: The coastal Plain and the Jezreel Valley Field Trip: Caesarea (Acts10: 12; 25); Megiddo (1Kings 9:15; Revelation 15:12); Tzippori (Sepphoris); Nazareth Village (Matthew 2:23; Luke 1:26; 4:16, 28-30; John 1:46) and talk there with a local Arab Christian from Nazareth. Overnight in Galilee.
TUESDAY MAY 31, 2011
Day 4 - THEME: Jesus' Ministry in the Golan, Upper Galilee Field Trip: Tel Dan (Joshua 19:47-48); Banyas [Caesarea Philippi] (Matthew 16); Hatzor (Hazor) (Joshua 11:10-11; 1 Kings 9:15); Golan Heights; First Century Boat Museum; Boat Ride on Sea of Galilee. Overnight in Galilee again.
Day 5 - THEME: Jesus' Ministry Around the Kinneret Field Trip: Tabgha (mark6; John 21); Mt. of Beatitudes (Matthew 5-7); Korazim (Matthew 11:23-24); Capernaum (Matt 4:13; 17:24; Mk 2:1); Kursi (Mark 5); Beth Shean (1 Samuel 31). Overnight in Jericho.
Day 6 - THEME: The Jordan River Valley and Jericho Field Trip: Jericho (Joshua 2, 4: Luke 10, 18, 19); Jordan River (Bethany across from Jericho): Qumran of the Dead Sea Scrolls; Dead Sea Swim.
EVENING LECTURE: "Biblical Archaeology and Jerusalem"
Overnight in Jericho.
Day 7 - THEME: Jerusalem at the Time of Jesus Field Trip: Mt. of Olives (Luje 11; Acts1); Bethphage (Matthew 21); Garden of Gethsemane (Matthew 26); Newly Renovated Israel Museum, the Shrine of the Book and the Model of Ancient Jerusalem; Mt. Zion and Upper Room (John 13). Overnight in Jerusalem.
Day 8 - THEME: Sabbath Worship and Walk Field Trip: Worship, Via Dolorosa/Way of Sorrows; Bethesda (John 5); Holy Sepulcher/Church of the Resurrection (Matthew 27-28; John 20); Christian Heritage Center/Christ Church.
EVENING LECTURE: "Reading Jesus' Bible"
Overnight in Jerusalem.
Day 9 - ANCIENT JERUSALEM: The Center of the World: Temple Mount (1 Kings 8); City of David (2 Sam 5); and Pool of Silaom (John 9) Herodian Mansion and the Burnt House; Southern Wall Excavations (Matthew 23). Overnight in Jerusalem again.
Day 10 - THEME: The Shephalah and Service Project Field Trip: Beth Shemesh (1 Samuel 6-7); David and Goliath in Elah Valley and Tel Azekah (1 Samuel 17, 21:9); Visit the Home for Bible Translators Enabling Translators and Scholars to Learn the Language and Contect of the Bible in the Land of the Bible.
AFTERNOON SERVICE PROJECT: with Yad HaShmona - the Only Jewish Christian Moshav (community village) in Israel. Overnight in Jerusalem. 
Day 11 - THEME: Wilderness of Judah, Dead Sea and Negev Desert Field Trip: Overview of Ein Gedi (1 Sam 25; Psalm 57); Masada, Arad (Num 21 and Israelite Holy of Holies); Visit with Persecuted Believers in Arad; Bethlehem (Matthew 2; Luke 2)
Overnight in Jerusalem.
Day 12 - THEME: Resurrection and New Life Field Trip: Garden Tomb (Gordan's Calvary) and Communion; Yad Vashem Holocaust Museum; and Emmaus Road (Luke 24)
CLOSING DINNER: Biblical Passover Meal
Evening Transfer to Airport for return flight to USA.
Day 13 - Arrive in USA 
Epilogue: June 10,2011 and thereafter…
When Cris Brown handed me his draft of the last day’s journal post, he said he really thought that the blog needed an epilogue to end our journey.  At first, I thought he was kidding, but as we talked in the darkened aircraft far out over the Atlantic, I realized he was serious.  How do you go about summarizing an experience like the one we had?  What could I add to what has already been written, quite excellently already, by the pilgrims each day on this trip?
A trip of this magnitude, by its nature, has a beginning and an end.  Ours is no exception…we departed on May 28th and we returned on June 9th.  We travelled some 15,000 miles on our pilgrimage.  We saw 10,000 years of history on our trip.  It was an experience of immense proportions.  
Yet, I believe the first step in understanding the nature of the experience we’ve had is to realize that we have not been on a trip with a defined beginning and a defined end, but rather on a journey that continues.  Each of us on this pilgrimage has been in formation each of the days of our lives leading up to this experience, and this formation will continue to shape us as long as we are on this earth.  
We have returned from our pilgrimage as different people than the ones we were before we left.  What we’ve seen and what we’ve heard has changed us.  The question is…how will we respond to this change?  Will the warmness we felt in our hearts in Israel cool now that we’re back in Birmingham?  Will we return our jobs focused on ourselves, or will our hearts stay open and turn outward toward others?  How will what you’ve seen and heard affect how you live from this point forward?
There are no right or perfect answers to this…as we heard from Brian many times on our trip, the answers are complicated and mysterious.  But the essence of God’s call on your life lies within your heart…may the spirit of Jesus be with you as you live forward into God’s purpose for your life.
Thanks be to God!
Warren Nash
“Blessed are you, O Lord our God, King of the Universe, who has allowed us to live, and sustained us and enabled us to reach this day.”
Day Twelve: Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Theme:  Resurrection and New Life
What a great theme for the day!  I can’t imagine a better way to describe these last stops that are planned for us.  In fact, once we get back home tomorrow and get over the jet lag, that will probably be a good way to describe this whole 13-day experience:  “Resurrection and New Life!”  
So far, we have traced the life of Jesus from his ancient heritage, to his birth at Bethlehem, to his death upon the cross.  Today we focus on the result.
First stop:  The Garden Tomb.  This beautifully quiet garden, just outside the wall to the Old City, is believed by some to be the location of the tomb owned by Joseph of Arimathea.  From its outer edge, we could see the side of a hill, possibly the one referred to as the Place of the Skull—Golgotha.  Today at the foot of the hill is a busy intersection and a bus station.  Even back in Jesus’ day, it would have been a major crossroads to Damascus and elsewhere—a likely spot for a very public crucifixion.  
The garden itself is on top of an excavated cistern, so large (about ½ the size of an Olympic-size swimming pool) that its owner must have been a very wealthy man to have owned so much water.  Our British guide took us to the location of a first century tomb within the garden.  Whether or not it was the actual tomb in which Christ was laid doesn’t really matter because He has very definitely risen!  
His Holy Spirit was clearly with us as Dr. Oliver Clark led us through a very moving early morning communion service in a shaded garden chapel.  Symbolic of the foot washing, we took turns gently washing each other’s hands and singing familiar hymns.  It’s safe to say there was not a dry eye in the house as we quietly left for our next visit.  
Next Stop: The Upper Room.  Just outside the Old City walls is the chapel known as the Upper Room.  As we waited to go inside, Brian reminded us that we were actually on the third Mount Zion.  The original one had been the City of David; the second was the Temple Mount; and where we were standing has been referred to as Mountain Zion ever since the second temple was destroyed in 70 AD.  Brian also mentioned that in relation to Pentecost and the Upper room that there was a very Jewish theme that when we are all together in worship, it is like a magnet that draws God to us; and that Pentecost and Shavuot are celebrations of the Giving and the Law and the Renewing of the Law.  
The Upper Room chapel itself is an interesting combination of Crusader and Muslim architecture with a Jewish holy site below it in remembrance of King David.  The Upper Room today was a pretty noisy place filled with many nationalities, faiths and tongues.
Third Stop:  The Road to Emmaus.  We left the Old City walls for a short bus ride and hike to a location about five miles west of Jerusalem.  We were on the original road to Emmaus.  Brian showed us the Roman stones originally laid for the 2,000 year-old road.  We stopped and broke bread in remembrance of the walk recorded in Luke 24:  “He took the bread and blessed (God for) it.”  As Brian read the scripture, he also pointed out what he considered to be evidence of the greatest sermon ever preached (Luke 24:27):  “Then Jesus quoted passages from the writings of Moses and all the prophets, explaining what all the Scriptures said about himself.”  
After our Emmaus Road lunch stop, the bus took us back to Yad Hashmona, the Messianic Jewish community of believers where we had worked on Monday to help set up for today’s Pentecost Festival, the largest annual gathering of Messianic Jews in Israel.  We arrived at 2 PM, just one hour before the end of the one-day holiday festival.  Beneath the tent that we had helped to set up, and sitting on the ground that we had helped clear of stones, more than 1,500 people of all ages had gathered.  Children danced in front of the bandstand; teens played volleyball nearby; parents and grandparents talked; vendors vended; the music played; and just about everyone smiles.  It was a very beautiful day!
As the festival started to wind down, we took about an hour break from Yad Hashmona.  We traveled by bus to the nearby Home for Bible Translators where we were greeted by one of its directors, Mirja Ronning.  This special program for Bible translators was started by Hebrew University in 1995.  It offers a home and study for 8 to 10 people per year in its 5 ½ month program that allows them to learn more about the Bible’s original Hebrew text.  The Hebrew source language that they learn along with exposure to the historical, geographical, and cultural settings of the Bible, enable students to more successfully translate from the original Hebrew and to train others in their native countries to do the same.  Since 1995, more than 90 students from 35 countries have benefitted from the program.
The closing dinner/Passover meal/Awards ceremony that we enjoyed tonight goes far beyond words.  It was held at the Yad Hashmona under a star-lit sky and a Bedouin goat-hair tent.  (By the way, goat-hair tents are pretty amazing!  When it rains, the goat hair fibers expand and close up as protection from the rain; and when it’s dry, the fibers contract and loosen up and allow for air flow during the hot, dry weather.)  In attendance tonight were some of the kindest, most compatible people that I have ever had the honor to be with.  And of course, Brian made each step of the traditional Seder meal especially meaningful and interesting.
He encouraged us all to read the Exodus story (especially chapters 12-16) to our children and our grandchildren: and to remember that if it had not happened, Christ would not have happened, and the world as we know it would not have happened.  Lester and Jane again bless us with their songs for the Seder in Hebrew.  Candles were lit.  “Bless Be the Tie that Binds” was sung.   And blessings to God were shared.
But the hands-down hit of the night has to go to the six 20-something young adults from the group that had taken the time to come up with and print out very special awards to all the rest of us.  As funny as each of the awards was, I’m afraid that all I can say is “you just had to be there” to appreciate how funny they were.  And I guess that’s where I need to stop—wishing everyone from Canterbury could have been there to experience it.  We’re all on the plane now—heading home.  We will all be talking about this trip for many years to come.  We all wish you could have been there with us.  And we all know, without any doubt, that God has been wish us every minute.  He always has been.  And He always will be.  
Thanks be to God!  Amen.
Cris Brown
This alternate location for the tomb of Jesus is found
at Gordon's Calvary....a beautiful quiet garden outside
the Old City Walls of Jerusalem.
Moving toward the Upper Room, this interesting
view of the Dormition Abbey beckons.
We take a lunch-time hike on the remains of the road to Emmaus.
The beautiful sunset on our last day in Israel.
Click here for more photos of day 12.
Day Eleven: Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Really? The bus breaks down by 8:45.  Yes.  In front of the Mountain of God Mall (no joke) We shared the Aroma of Christ at the Aroma (Israeli Starbucks) and we were on our way…without the Lost Sheep... Suzanne, Madeline, and Sharon (as was their custom).  
The Canterbury contingent heads down into the valley (Elah) into Real Life. We were in the Wild, Wild West. Yikes.  
Beth Shemesh: The Philistines returned the Ark of the Covenant to Joshua. God struck down the people who looked at the Ark. We wonder… why bad things happen to good people (scary dreams and terminal cancer). Is it ok to wrestle? God says yes! And Jacob was the first God wrestler.
Tel Azekah: The site of David and Goliath. The Philistines assembled on the far hill and Pretty Boy David was on our hill. When people went ripping on God it was a bad thing (1 Samuel 17:26). TAKE HOME:  Come off the hill and fight in the valley and only know that God is with you. For his glory and not your own!  Amen and amen.  
Intermission: The Stones went to collect 3 small stones for David’s slingshot from the riverbed. They came back to the bus with a basket of stones and everyone in the back of the bus got stoned : )  
Lunch with Jeff Stoned: Sammy Schwarma speaks (puppet show) Roger the Nectarine claims it is good to be grafted Warren goes to Shekel Valley (Nissan Brothers) to spend his last shekels We have a Baklava revolt (for dessert : )
Yasser Harry Fat shows up on the bus.  Ha.  
The Herodian Palace:  He had massive digs. Herod the Great’s summer home, kind of an Israeli equivalent to a house on Lake Martin except with an auditorium, 1st century synagogue, and a predefined burial place.  He had a lot of Kay sized tunnels and he used a lot of poor Jews to construct his compound.  
The Church of the Nativity:
The grotto reading from Luke 2 (OMG) along with the group singing of Oh, Little Town of Bethlehem, the cave reading of Matthew 2 with the Magi. Jerome’s study where he and his benefactors (Brian and the Glasscocks) translate the Bible from Hebrew to Latin.  
The Apostolic Church of Bethlehem:  SECRET CHURCH
Khader Khouri fled from the Golan Heights to Bethlehem (like Joseph and Mary fleeing to Egypt) to start a church. He was anointed by God, but he was chased by Saul (just like King David). God asked him just to PRAISE HIM. Don’t look at the war and poverty, God says look at me! Khader says ALL PEOPLE WANT TO LIVE IN PEACE.
My Lord, my God, we pray for peace.
Lisa Donnell
Beth Shemesh was the Biblical home of Sampson, and
was the location where the Philistines returned the
Ark of the Covenant to the Israelites (1 Samuel 6-7).
The plain where David killed Goliath.
The interior of the Church of the Nativity.
The subterranean floors are from the fourth century.
The traditional birthplace of Jesus
at the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem.
Click here for more photos of day 11.
Day Ten: Monday, June 6, 2011

Boker tov!  (Good morning!)  Boarding the bus at 8:15, we hear an explanation of how news from Israel is exaggerated. Shootings resulting in deaths of 19 people in the Golan Heights made front-page news and TV reporters work helmets and flak jackets reporting from Jerusalem (which is totally peaceful), but deaths of 1,200 Syrians in the last two weeks did not make headline news!  In reality, we are safe and we are feeling no threats!

Destination: Yad Vashem Holocaust Museum

As our group began our tour of this memorial to the 6 million Jews who were murdered in the Holocaust, we began in an open, well-lighted area on comfortable carpet. The architecture of the building near the Mountain of Remembrance is striking! The mountain was broken in two, with the museum itself underground. Our path downward into darkness passed the Forest of the Righteous Among the Nations.  Trees have been planted in memory of non-Jews who helped the persecuted Jews.  After crossing the “Bridge to a Vanished World,” we heard the voices of children singing “Hat Ikva,” the national anthem of Israel: “Hope”.  Ironically, the recording had been made in 1933, before the atrocities became known.  Various displays of actual film footage, exhibits of personal belongings allowed us to gain knowledge about the lives of individuals, families, and whole villages that were annihilated.  

Our experience at Yad Vashem is impossible to fully convey.  As we observed evidence of the hatred that resulted in unspeakable horrors, we also realized the tragedy of apathy…too many people did nothing to help.  Following the museum path from the Hall of Names out into the light, we thought about how we need to respond to evil in the world.  In the words of Martin Niemoller,

“They came for the Communists, and I did not object, because I was not a Communist.

They came for the Socialists, and I did not object because I was not a Socialist.

They came for the Jews, and I did not object, because I was not a Jew.

When they came for me, there was no one left to object.”

The Christian Friends of Yad Vashem reminded us that anti-Semitism can be only as strong as we allow it to be.  Now those feelings of hatred are directed toward the state of Israel.  It is important to “tell the story of the past in order to shape the future.”

Ezekiel 37:5 is an appropriate verse to recall as the theme verse of Yad Vashem: "Thus saith the Lord God unto these bones: Behold, I will cause breath to enter into you, and ye shall live.”

On the way to our next stop we see evidence of Israel’s focus on renewal of life. We can see hundreds of trees planted along the highway as part of the reforestation program.  

Since today was our “Service Project Day,” we next visited a small Messianic Jewish community called Yad Hashmona. We were there to help them prepare for Shavuot…the Feast of Weeks. It is celebrated with worship and dancing under large tents, and over 1,000 Jewish believers are expected!

Like the twelve tribes, the Canterbury pilgrims dispersed to various territories and dove into our assignments.  Some of us helped prepare the grounds by picking up and clearing rocks to make it easier for people to walk. Brian, our fearless leader, says that when God created the earth, He carried two large bags of rocks to scatter over the whole earth and one of the bags broke over Israel…now we understand! Others laid pipe, shoved gravel, and weeded.

This is a beautiful place, with a feeling of peace. It is nice to find some quiet moments while working, just to think about what God has done and to wonder what He will do here. We are honored to participate in preparations for one of His Holy Feasts.

After finishing our jobs, we had a wonderful visit with Ayelet, whose husband’s family founded the community (Her grandparents were Holocaust survivors who later became believers.) She shared with us that as believers in Jesus, they are viewed with suspicion by other Jews.  Ayelet quote Jesus’ words, “A city on a hilltop cannot be hidden,” so though it is difficult for them, these believers choose to be a light in the world.

Donna Cleage & Donna Crouch (“The Two Donnas”)


While most of our group was helping Daniel get his property ready for the Pentecostal crowd, ten ladies went to visit a nursing home.  This visit had been coordinated by Brian’s sister-in-law, Tamar.  It is a home that older Israelites who are poor come to.  They are supported by the state.  We wanted to give them a few minutes of cheerful entertainment, so we chose some songs that we thought that might enjoy.  They were very solemn…really very sad looking.  However, I think they enjoyed our being there.  We even did the hokey-pokey and they joined in!  We went upstairs where the more infirmed were and sang a few songs.  Upstairs and downstairs, they took our hands.  As we left, we sang “Blest Be the Tie That Binds.”  We stood and held hands.  I was kissed on both cheeks by several and one even said she loved me. Lisa, as she was going around the room, found a survivor from Auschwitz.  

What a blessing this was for us and I hope for them. As I was sitting in the courtyard waiting for the bus, I realized these are the people Jesus came to help--the marginalized, the poor, those without hope.  Maybe in our brief time with them, we gave them some hope, some sense of God’s love for them. Praise be to God for this experience!

Bede Donnell
We arrive at Yad Vashem, Israel's national Holocaust Museum
The museum did not allow photography, so we are not able to share what we saw.  But be assured, that we were relieved to walk back out into the sunlight after seeing the unspeakable horror that the Jewish people went through.
After the horror of what we saw, sometimes you need a friend to lean on.
Brian talks about our service project at Yad Hasmonah
Click here for more photos of day 10.
Day Nine: Sunday, June 5, 2011

As we gathered this evening for a time of worship and reflection led by Jane Siegel, we learned of the violence in the Golan Heights that has purportedly killed approximately 20 Palestinians and has injured over 300. This incident has certainly struck a chord in each of our hearts since we had visited the Golan Heights just a few days prior, but rest assured that we are all safe here in Jerusalem. We hope you will join us as we continue to pray for peace in this troubled land.

That said, we began our morning with a slightly later departure from our hotel (8:30am!) and drove around the perimeter of the Old City until we reached the Zion Gate, situated just outside of the Armenian Quarter. We passed into the Jewish quarter of the Old City where we spent most of the morning exploring the first century excavations that lie beneath contrasting modern structures. The Jewish Quarter was mostly abandoned between the 1948 Arab-Israeli War and the 6-Day War in 1967, after which the Jewish community returned to rebuild.  It was during this reconstruction effort that a first century priestly mansion was discovered along with artifacts such as coins, stone and clay vessels, and beautiful mosaics. Brian highlighted the evidence of a courtyard in this priestly compound and connected it to the passage in Luke 22 in which Peter denies Jesus three times in a similar courtyard.  Afterwards, we visited the remains of another first century home belonging to the Kathros family, one of three priestly families that served in the Temple until the second destruction in 70 AD. Known as “The Burnt House,” this archeological site stands as a testament to the internal rivalries and conflicts that existed among the Jews, ultimately leading to the Roman destruction of the Temple.

Next, we had the unique opportunity to visit Shorashim, a shop owned by two Orthodox Jews that relocated to Jerusalem from Canada. In addition to an array of Biblical art, they offered their perspective on the relationship between Christianity and Judaism and allowed us to ask even the most prying questions about their faith. After refueling on schwarma and “Holy Bagels,” we then made our way through security and onto the Temple Mount, known to Muslims as the “Noble Sanctuary.” This area where the Jewish Temple once stood has been under Muslim control since the end of the Crusader period, but remains a holy site for three religions.  The Muslim-built Dome of the Rock is believed to be the location where Abraham bound Ishmael as a sacrifice to God and where the Prophet Muhammad touched down on his nighttime journey from Mecca to Jerusalem. In our Judeo-Christian tradition, of course, this rock commemorates Abraham’s binding of Isaac rather than Ishmael. As non-Muslims, we were not allowed into the shrine, but we gathered in the shade of a nearby tree to contemplate the centuries of conflict that surround this holy space.

Following our time in the Noble Sanctuary, we ventured back into the crowded market streets of the Muslim District of the Old City and made our way to the Jerusalem Archaeological Park, where Brian highlighted Robinson’s Arch and the Teaching Steps of the Elders. While little remained of the first century arch, we could imagine the wealthy patrons entering the Temple through this grand structure. We sat as eager listeners while Brian described Paul’s learning at the feet of Gamaliel, likely on those very steps, and the possibility of Jesus teaching there as well.

We finished our day in the City of David, the “original” Jerusalem that David conquered from the Jebusites and established as his capital. We were only able to scratch the surface of this most excavated site in all of Jerusalem, but we visited the supposed palace of King David where we could easily imagine the story of David looking down upon Bathsheba in the residential ruins below.

Finally, our beloved bus driver, Salim, delivered all of us weary pilgrims to our hotel to rest and recharge for the few days that remain on our journey. We hope that someday you may be blessed with the opportunity to discover this holy land and its people and be spiritually fulfilled and energized as we have throughout our time here.

Callie and Wilson Nash
Young Hasidic boys already show signs of the long sideburns that characterize their faith, because they are instructed in the Torah not to cut the "corners of their hair."
The Dome of the Rock houses the pinnacle of Mount Moriah, the biblical site where Abraham prepared to sacrifice Isaac for Jews and Christians.  For Muslims, it is the place where Mohammed touched down on the night journey in their tradition.
A view toward the Church of the Ascension on the Mount of Olives.
The Harp of David, symbol of the City of David
where it began so long ago.
Click here for more photos of day 9.
Day Eight: Saturday, June 4, 2011

Today we began on foot heading away from our hotel into the old city of Jerusalem to walk the Via Dolorosa and visit the pools of Bethesda and the Western Wall of the Temple, known as the Wailing Wall.  En route we passed Jerusalem  House, where Horatio Spafford composed the music of his hymn, “It Is Well with My Soul”.  We entered the city at the Modern Damascus Gate and began to wind our way down the narrow, second century Roman road. Our first stop was the excavated pools of Bethesda where Jesus healed the helpless man and was persecuted by the Jewish religious leaders for breaking the Sabbath.  We came to understand that Jesus always affirmed the Torah, but rather took issue with some unreasonably strict interpretations of it.  We received a beautiful gift as we entered the Church of Saint Anne there in Bethesda.  A group of Nigerian Christians who are now from England had come in and begun to praise God with the most beautiful songs in this church of incredible acoustics. We sat in awe, worshipping our mighty God with them. We were now prepared to walk the Via Dolorosa, contemplating Jesus’ suffering and death.  

The road was quite a contrast to yesterday’s meditation on the Mount of Olives and our quiet communion with our Savior in the Garden of Gethsemane. It is a bustling market place full of shoppers and merchants with their wares.  In the midst of the sounds of old Jerusalem’s commercial world, it was difficult to picture Jesus carrying his cross along this narrow road.  In many ways it mirrored our lives, cluttered with the busy-ness of living, searching for Him along the way, seeking to “take up our crosses and follow Him.”  We praise God that because He is a resurrected Savior, we have access to the Father and are empowered by His Holy Spirit to do what is impossible without Him.

We had the opportunity to learn about the Wailing Wall and also to get more insight into Jewish tradition as we listened to a presentation by Brian’s friend, Kime and his wife, Messianic Jews who keep the Orthodox tradition.  What a privilege to join hundreds of Jews at the wall for prayer on the day of their Sabbath.  What an incredible place to pray the Shema and to lift up prayers for the peace of this holy city, for our church, families and friends.

While visiting Christ Church, the oldest protestant church in the Middle East, we heard its history and the story of this Messianic Jewish church’s presence in Jerusalem from its pastor, Aaron Eiman.  Of particular interest was his explanation of the Trinity:  God is God, He is God with us in Jesus, and the Holy Spirit is the breath of God.  We finished yet another incredible day with a lecture on Biblical Archaeology and Jerusalem by renowned archaeologist, Dr. Gaby Barkay, who is currently working on a project, sifting through dirt that has been removed from beneath the Temple Mount.

Suzanne Payne
The Church of the Holy Sepulchre
The Chapel of the Crucifixion, built over the bedrock of Golgotha.
The Pools of Bethesda
The Church of St. Anne, the mother of Mary mother of Jesus.
Click here for more photos of day 8.
Day Seven: Friday, June 3, 2011
At the halfway point of our journey through the Holy Land, the whole trip so far has seen a bit surreal. Brian has tested us physically, emotionally, and certainly spiritually. At this point of the trip the days begin to slightly run together, and it is important to distinguish these significant events for surely we will remember them for the rest of our lives. 
Day Seven began with a stop at the location of a sycamore fig tree near the location where Jesus told Zaccheus “you come down!” (as demonstrated by the lovely bus singers). Next was Tel Sultan, also known as the Old Testament town of Jericho. The oldest city in the world dating back to 8000 BC, Jericho was one of the earliest homes of agriculture and urbanization. It was conquered and rebuilt 23 times, much like Tel Megiddo, which lead to the unique archeological layers that can be seen. Joshua 6 tells the story of the children of Israel marching around the city walls and eventually the walls came tumbling down. The on-site evidence shows that the ancient city was ultimately destroyed around 1500 BC which lines up exactly with the Biblical timeline. 
Our next stop represented the majority of our day at the Israel Museum which houses a 1:50 model of ancient Israel, the Dead Sea Scrolls, and countless priceless artifacts. Without Brian’s guidance, we might still be stuck in the museum. The model includes depictions of the Temple Mount, David’s Tomb, and Mount Zion where the Last Supper and Pentecost are believed to have occurred. The replica also presents the two differing locations for Golgotha; the Catholic interpretation occurring at the location of the Church of the Holy Sepulcher and the Protestant one at the site of Gordon’s Calvary. We then ventured into the central part of the museum that contains the Dead Sea Scrolls. These scrolls, found in 1947, contain fragments of all Old Testament books excluding Ester. However, they were not published for all to see until 1990 because 12 scholars controlled all the rights because of their discovery. These extremely fragile rolls of leather parchment truly were quite a sight to see, especially up close. The whole book of Isaiah was found in Cave #4 which is represented in its own display here. The final portion of the museum included many amazing archeological finds from all ages. This included the Priestly Blessing (Numbers 6), which is the oldest piece of scripture ever found dating back to 300 BC. Also on display were several significant ossuaries, also known as bone boxes, which would be placed in family graves after the deceased body had decayed. One belonged to Caiphas the high priest who initially put Jesus on trial in Jerusalem, and the other in known as the “crucifixion box” which contains the only archaeological evidence in the world of Roman crucifixion with a nail still in the heel bone. The original Moses seat from Korazim that Brian taught about a few days ago was also on display. The Israel Museum, much like the American Smithsonian, was a truly unique stop because of the amount of genuine artifacts that you can see in only a few short hours. It is a shame that more time couldn’t be spent there (maybe next time). 
After a stop for lunch near the top of the Mount of Olives, the afternoon yielded a much slower paced spiritual reflection on the beginning of the end for Jesus, his journey into Jerusalem. In the words of Harry Littleton, “He entered on a donkey and we’re riding in on a greyhound!” While we had no burrows, our drive into the epicenter of the Christian world had a tangible solemn feeling because of what was to come. A stop at Bethpage, the “house of the unripe fig”, is the traditional Crusader location of where Jesus boarded his donkey to ride into Jerusalem (Matthew 21). Some interpretations of this story include two donkeys which represent one for Jesus and the other acts as an invitation for us to join him. This point is extremely significant because it represents the point where Jesus reveals his “messaihship” to the whole world, and only a few days later he is hanging on a tree. We then viewed an authentic “rolling stone” tomb much like the one Jesus would have been placed in before his resurrection and ascension (Luke 24). These different places begin to piece together the story of last days of Jesus in a way that it is hard to explain unless you can see them with your own eyes. 
The last stop of the day, for me, was the most meaningful place of the trip and maybe the most noteworthy place I have been in my life to date, the Garden of Gethsemane. The final place of gathering between Jesus and his disciples before he is betrayed by Judas (Matthew 26) is a hidden place of beauty inside a modern city. Yet, the feelings of despair that seep into your soul from that fateful last night outweigh the grandeur of the natural beauty of the garden. The Church of Sorrow is a fitting tribute to the events that transpired in this hopeless place as almost no light passes through the alabaster windows and the rock where Jesus prayed acts as a centerpiece of the church. Outside, the group took place in a communion in the same place where Jesus spent his last hours with his followers.This experience, along with the Church of Sorrow, could stir even coldest hearts. It is certainly something I will never forget as long as I inherit this earth.  
While we don’t know what the rest of our pilgrimage will hold, so far this group has endured a spiritual gauntlet but it seems as though the best is yet to come. Best wishes to all those back home from Jerusalem! 
Graham Nash 
Herod's temple from the first century
The Garden of Gethsemane....some of these olive trees are old enough to have been here the night Jesus prayed before his arrest and execution.
Beautiful morning in Jericho
In Jerusalem at last!!
Click here for more photos of day 7.
Day Six: Thursday, June 2, 2011
What you may not know about these blog entries is that Warren Nash gives the author a spiral-bound legal pad at the beginning of the day they’re recording and says, “Go.” Following Ralph Yeilding’s eight full, detailed pages of notes from which to write, I will do my best to produce something worthwhile. 
Today we experienced the landscape of Israel that most people on the trip said they expected from the beginning. We were jolted from fairly lush, waterside views to topography reminiscent of “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade” (which happens to be in my top five of all time. Red and tan dominate the landscape, with enormous rocky cliffs that flank the Dead Sea. To say that the scenery is epic in size and grandeur is an understatement. 
Our first stop today (and maybe my favorite adventure so far) was Masada, a giant series of cliffs off the shore of the Dead Sea, where Herod the Great built a fortress and palace into the rock faces, the details of which are astounding.
The story all of us already know is this: in 66 AD, the Jewish people rebelled against Roman rule, and Jerusalem fell. The story we don’t know, and the far more captivating one, is this: the last of the Jewish rebels from the revolt, numbering about 900, came to Masada to seek refuge from the Romans. There, they found sustenance in water cisterns left by Herod and lived until the Romans found them out. After weeks of planning, the Romans built a 500 ft high ramp out of packed dirt and began burning and attempting to plunder the rock walls of the Jewish fortress. 
Elazar, the Jewish commander, made one of the most powerful speeches in Jewish history. He convinced his people that freedom in death would be better than life in Roman slavery. The men cast lots on shards of pottery (the actual lots have been excavated and are emblemized in a museum) and agreed that they would kill their wives and children, then each other, and one man, finally, would fall on his own sword. Because of this act of extreme heroism, the story of Masada has permeated Jewish culture and become a symbol of the great courage that exists in the Jewish people. Lester Seigel said it best: “Am Ysrael chai” – Hebrew for “The People of Israel live.” And thank God that they do; they live beyond tragedy and death to prove that faith means life over death. Life instead of death. 
The other attractions for today are so grand and so numerous it’s hard to catalog: we ventured to Qumran, the site of the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls, where we had a fascinating lecture and discussion about the tension between Judaism and Christianity; toured En Gedi (a national park); floated in the Dead Sea (hilarious stories about that, I can assure you). We conquered fears of heights (ahem – Harry and Cindy), haggled local businesspeople down a few dollars, traversed the dirt roads with our faithful bus driver Salim (“Team Salim!”), and made steps in addressing the ever-decreasing gap between Judaism and Christianity, each faith born of the same father, two brothers  -- one older, one younger, each with his own set of talents. As Lester taught me, the mission of Jewish life is a simple phrase: Tikkum olam; or, “to repair the world.” We don’t have to do it alone. We can do it hand in hand with each other, and with our Jewish and Muslim brothers and sisters. Am Ysrael chai. The people of Israel – all of us – live. Thanks be to God. 
Mary Catherine McAnnally 
The Israeli flag flies from the Herodian
fortress of Masada high above the Dead Sea
An opening in the casement wall of Masada provides a view
a thousand feet above the floor of the desert.
Click here for more photos of day 6.
Day Five: Wednesday,June 1, 2011
We had another full 8:00 – 7:00 day of sightseeing / study, taking in seven sites during the day.  We began with a visit to the Franciscan basilica located on the Mount of the Beatitudes on the northwest corner of the Sea of Galilee (which we re-named Lake Galilee because it is more akin to Lake Martin in size and is fresh water rather than salt water). This is the site where Jesus spoke to the throngs from the mountain (Matthew) / plains (Luke) proclaiming the beatitudes to a growing throng of Jewish followers.  
During our lesson, I happened to be the lucky one in our group approached by an elderly Catholic nun who felt a keen sense of ownership of the premises and who I quickly realized had a “bad beatitude” because our group apparently did not seek permission from the sacristry (check-in office) to sit among the rocks overlooking the fields below (which, interestingly, were filled with banana trees we imagined as people).  My instinct was to respond by telling her, “Blessed are those nuns who are kind,” but I bit my tongue and asked her indulgence. She rolled her matronly eyes and moved on.   
A key insight Brian offered was the notion that as a Jew teaching Jews, Jesus was attempting to extend and deepen the Torah (law) rather than override it…”you have heard it said, thou shall not murder and I tell you thou also shall not anger; you have heard it said, thou shall not commit adultery and I tell you thou also shall not lust, etc.” Changing the but to and expresses the idea.
From there we went to the lake/sea shore below to a Benedictine church built on the site where Jesus appeared to Peter following the resurrection (John 21).  Brian introduced us to the idea of a sulha (pronounced sulcha) meal – a meal of restoration - binding people together.  Here Jesus instructs-empowers Peter to go forth and “tend my sheep” and restore relationships, even after Peter had denied him three times.    
The third stop of the day was Capernaum, home of Peter, where Jesus is believed to have based his Galilean ministry.  Again, we visited a Benedictine -owned facility, this one built on the site of what is believed to be the home of Peter’s mother where Peter (and Jesus) lived, and where a contemporary  “space ship” style church has been built in commemoration. Next to this site was a 1st century “insula” or home, which as Brain noted (and Bill Morgan had just preached on the Sunday before we left) vividly illustrates the John 14 heavenly notion of “in my father’s house there are many mansions (rooms).”  Next to the insula was a “heretical” 1st century synagogue where Jesus-following Jews met and where a synagogue of “in-betweeners” continued to worship until the 9th century.  
From there we headed around the northern end of “lake” Galilee to “the other side” (where the gentiles lived) to the community of Kursi, where Jesus drove the demons from the mentally disturbed man and into the pigs, who ran headlong into the lake (Mark 5). It was easy to visualize the story from this hillside location. The highlight of this stop was hearing Brian and April share with us about their excavation work here in year 2001, and seeing their pictures displayed in the museum room on the site. 
The fifth stop of the day was at a kibbutz located nearby in En Gav where we ate lunch in a beautiful setting right on lake Galilee.  Afterward Brian played the role of school marm shooing a number of the women in the group away from the 50% off rack in the gift store and back onto the bus so we could continue on our trek southward.
Next up was a stop at the community of Yardenit on the southern tip of lake Galilee where the River Jordan begins its southward journey  As Skip Donnell noted, the river looks about like the Cahaba River running at one-half capacity. The highlight of the stop was Oliver Clark donning his clerical vestments and leading a service of baptism for the group using water dipped from the River Jordan. Afterwards several members of the group also filled their water bottles with river water to take back home to the Canterbury alter guild for use in our infant baptisms, a tradition that has now been going on 40+ years. 
The last stop of the day was at the site of Bet She’An, which was a crossroads between the Jordan Valley and the Jezreel Valley, and has been the site of civilizations dating from 5th century BCE to the present.  Biblically, it was the site where King Saul and his sons were slain by the Philistines and their heads hung on the tel (hill) overlooking the city below (1 Samuel 31), giving rise to a famous poem/lament from David (2 Samuel 17) read to all Jewish children to this day.
From there we drove south approximately one hour through the West Bank for the first time on our way to the city of Jericho. An overwhelming impression of a number of us was how its arid, desert-like topography stood in such striking contrast to the irrigated farmlands surrounding the area of Galilee and northern Israel.  Also, we quickly quickly stepped back in time as we passed  a number of Bedouin sheep and goat herders along the way, and an occasional camel as well. After this short ride, it was somewhat of a jarring contrast to arrive at our 4-star Intercontinental Hotel and be put up on our plushest accommodations yet. Quite a day indeed.
Ralph Yeilding
We leave the Mount of the Beatitudes
Synagogue at Capernaum
Click here for more photos of day 5.
Day Four: Tuesday,May 31, 2011

We awoke to a beautiful morning on the Sea of Galilee. For the adventuresome ones we had eggs lasagna for breakfast; it was delicious!
Today's travels include upper Galilee and the Golan Heights which include the Tribes of Dan and Naphthali.
We started off in beautiful Shema prayer sung in Hebrew by Jane Seigel and interpreted by Lester. (Deuteronomy 6:4-9)
Our first stop was the Tel Dan Nature Preserve. A tel is a mound of cities, one upon another like a layered cake. We took a two and a half hour hike to the main spring of the Dan river, the high altar of King Jeroboam, and the Canaanite and Israelite Gates.
The Dan river accounts for a third to a half of the drinking water for all of Israel. The trail that led to the main spring of Dan was lush with vegetation and in the profound words of Lisa Donnell was, like the "Jemison Trail on steroids". (Reference Psalm 133h
Next was the high altar from the time of King Jeroboam dating back to 920 BC. Here I got a new perspective on sacrifice. I have always had a negative connotation associated with the ancient sacrifices but our leader Brian described it as a giant barbecue with all the pleasant aromas of grilling meat (over simplified by me). In the words of Ralph Yeilding, "A sacrifice is giving God His share of the barbeque." (Reference 1 Kings 12)
The Canaanite gate, circa 1800 BC, was our next stop and is believed by many to have been passed through by Abram as he was commanded by God to " go forth" in Genesis 12.
The Israelite gate is the best preserved "City Gate" of the Israelite era and there we could see the King's seat as described in 2 Samuel 19:8 and Ruth 4:1-2. In archeological digs at Tel Dan an ancient inscription was found that referenced a great battle of the north with a reference to the House of David. This is important confirmation of Biblical text.
Leaving Tel Dan, we went to Caesarea Phillippi. Here we had a wonderful Bible study on Matthew 16:13-20 where Jesus asks the disciples, "Who do you say I am?" Jesus tells Peter, which means pebble, "..on this rock I will I will build my church". 
And all this before lunch!
After lunch we took a scenic drive through the Golan Heights seeing cedar trees like the trees of Lebanon; cows of Bashan (Psalm 22:12) and many vineyards. We stopped at the Kunitra overlook looking out over Syria and a UN base. Brian gave an emotional account of the regional unrest while throughout there was Israeli tank fire reverberating in the background from practice drills.
We made our way back down to the north end of the Sea of Galilee to the town of Korazim. There we read one of the few parables in the Old Testament, Judges 9:1-21 while standing under a bramble tree (read the parable). Next we saw an actual Mikvah - ritual purity bath like the one Mary would have used in Luke 2:22. We then saw a Talmudic Synagogue which is more recent than the first century synagogue we saw in Nazareth and much larger. Here we saw one of three preserved "Moses Seats" as referenced in Matthew 23:1-2.
Lastly we stopped in Ginnosar where in 1986, during a drought when the Sea of Galilee was very low, a first century boat was discovered buried in the sand. This is the same type fishing boat that the disciples would have used to fish from and Jesus would have used to cross the sea. While there we took a cruise out on the sea. The Sea of Galilee is only 8 miles wide and 12 miles long; smaller than many of the lakes in Alabama. We were entertained by Daniel Carmel with some hymns and a demonstration of fishing at the time of Jesus. For those of you who grew up in south Alabama throwing a cast net around Mobile Bay, you have fished like the disciples.
Grady Gunn
(In collaboration with Jeff and Linda Stone)
Another Day 4 journal from Ralph Yeilding – After dinner, we had a beautiful worship service and time of reflection led by April and Mary Katherine McAnnally – April read our scripture and Mary Katherine led us in singing Here I Am, Lord – then members of the group gave personal reflections on the first two days of our pilgrimage, with the dominant theme being the richness and depth that our leader Brian Kvasnica brought to the biblical texts with his ability to relate his understanding of the land and Jewish history, customs and scriptures to the life of Jesus (Yeshua). 
We begin our day at Tel Dan, in the very northern most tip of Israel.
The synagogue at Korzim, where Jesus taught.
Click here to see all the photos for day 4.
Day Three: Monday,May 30, 2011

On the bus and on the road 10 minutes late...but Brian promises we will work on that!  What a taskmaster!!

All were rested after the looooong day Saturday and Sunday, though some admitted to little sleep. Brian’s instructions the night before: stay horizontal as long as possible and hydrate, hydrate, hydrate. Breakfast this morning at the hotel was good and helped to get us ready for a full day today.

....First stop: Caesarea Maritima originally built by Herod the Great, it was the first artificial port designed with control of commerce in mind.  It also the capital of Palestine under the Roman government. 

Included in the visit was the ancient theatre, still in use for modern concerts in Israel, a chance to dip our toes in the Mediterranean Sea, and a walk through the Hippodrome, a long track for chariot racing, and later the site of a martyr’s death for many Christians and Jews in the first and second centuries.
...Next stop:  Tel Megiddo, located strategically in a valley leading to the Jezreel Valley, the site mentioned as the final battle for the world in Revelation.  Tel Megiddo is Israel’s deepest Tel, with 25 layers of cities built and overthrown before it was finally abandoned during the reign of Herod the Great.  The strategic location of Megiddo allowed us to see Mt. Carmel, Mt. Tabor, and Mt. Gilboa...Brian told us the historical significance of each.

The highlight of the trip to Megiddo was a descent deep below the surface of the tel into a tunnel built by King Ahab to secure the water source for the city while under siege.  It was 183 steps down to a subterranean tunnel leading to the underground spring...dank and cool beneath the surface before we climbed 80 steps up back to the surface.
...Next stop:  Sepphoris, the Roman provincial capital of Galilee, located about four miles from Nazareth. Bible scholars believe Jesus and his father, Joseph, likely walked from Nazareth to work on the construction of the great city, and that they were more likely to be stone masons than carpenters.  We walked on first century roads, and saw the ruts of Roman chariots in the paving stones, along with beautiful tiles floors in the first century shops and synagogue located there.

Final stop of the day:  The recreation of a first century village in Nazareth.  Nazareth, in Jesus’ day, was a small community of less than 500 people, with Sepphoris being the big city up the hill of 50,000+.  Nazareth, now a thriving community, is mostly Arab Israelites and a smaller number of Arab Christians. The first century village included a number of very entertaining recreations of life in first-century Nazareth. After completing our visit to the village, we departed for Tiberius, the location of our hotel for the next two days on the shore of the Sea of Galilee.

We had dinner outside the hotel tonight under a beautiful sunset on the Golan Heights. Brian’s wife, Soshi and their five children joined us tonight, which gave us an opportunity to give a prayer shawl made the the Canterbury Knit Wits to Nehalel, Brian’s youngest son born just 12 days ago.  

Roger Kernodle

The group takes notes at Cesearea Maritima,
the Roman capital of first century Israel.
Cesarea Maritima

Brian teaches in the city gates at Megiddo.
 Click here to see all the photos for day 3.
Day Two: Sunday,May 29th, 2011

Glad to say, the overnight flight was uneventful for most—although very boring for anyone who couldn’t sleep. After a few in-flight movies and cat naps, the lights have come back on, the window shades have been opened and we are now being served our second full meal by the courteous folks of US Airways. It’s breakfast at 1:30 on a Sunday afternoon, high above the beautiful white clouds and the Mediterranean Sea.  Only one more hour to Tel Aviv!!

...Brian Kvasnica met us at the airport this afternoon and led us onto the bus for our first of 11 outings with him as our incredibly knowledgeable guide through the Holy Land of Israel. Our first stop on the bus was about 10 miles north of Tel Aviv on a hilltop overlooking Rosh Ha’ayim and the Plain of Sharon.  Brian pointed out sites where the Philistines had come in from Greece to fight the Israelites, their direction of battle, and the route that the Ark of the Covenant had taken and the role that it had played, instilling fear and faith thousands of years ago. (1 Samuel 4)

...After checking into our hotel in Netanya, we enjoyed a buffet dinner at the hotel, overlooking the Mediterranean Sea at sunset. A brief orientation meeting followed where Brian made us feel even more welcomed and where we each shared our thoughts and hopes for the 10 days ahead in the land where Jesus walked.

Cris Brown
We meet our guide, Brian Kvasnica.
Our first stop on the Plain of Sharon.

 Click here to see all the photos for day 1 & 2. 
Day One: Saturday, May 28th, 2011

So far so good for all 40+ of us.  We all made it to the Birmingham Airport on time.  Warren gathered us at the gate for a prayer, and soon we were finally off for one of the most memorable, meaningful trips of our lives.

...As best as we can tell, no one was lost in the sprawling concourses in Charlotte and Philly.  Judy’s knitting needles breezed through international airport security.  Ralph got on board with his retrieved book, phone, and boarding pass.  And Oliver and Elaine found the world’s best airport restaurant.  I think we’re on a roll!!

...Now, 9 1/2 hours after our Saturday morning checking at the B’ham airport, our wheels have finally left the ground in Philadelphia for an 11-hour, through-the-night flight to Tel Aviv.  Glory Hallelujah!

Cris Brown
We depart for Israel on May 28th.
A long day in the airport takes its toll...on everyone!!
Click here to see all the photos for day 1 & 2.